In literary terms the early 21st century has been the period of the self-published author. What was once sneered at and relegated to obscure works, self-published books, with the help of modern technologies, have made it into public focus like no other period in history.
Mainstream titles like The Martian, Still Alice and of course 50 Shades of Grey have all hit international acclaim in the last 10 years without the (initial) backing of a big publisher.With the help of the internet, social media and of course the eReader, self-publishing has finally found an outlet giving both author and reader access to vast resources, like never before.
So what turned the tide for self-publishers? Was it the Kindle, the internet, a backlash against publishing houses, public opinion or all of the above?
David Morrison founder of PublishNation, an organisation that helps promote self-published authors, gives us his thoughts on the world of the self-publisher and what has changed over the last 10 years.
So first off, let’s get into the question, has there been a rise in self-publishing and if so, why?
There has been a huge rise in self-publishing over the last few years and there is one reason for that: the Kindle.
Amazon revolutionised the book industry when their first eBook reading device was launched in 2007, selling out in just five and a half hours!
For the first time, people could order a book directly, not just from the retailer, but also straight from the writer. With Kindles going on to sell in their millions, a whole new market opened up to writers all over the world.
The publishing industry was in shock!
Advances in Technology
The 21st century has seen a lot of new technology take a foothold, how has modern tech advanced self-publishing?
The eBook is a perfect fit for the digital age. It brings convenience and communication to readers on a scale never seen before. Anyone with an internet connection anywhere in the world has millions of books at their disposal.
If you enjoyed a good read, then spread the word! Thanks to social media, people could post a link of a book they enjoyed on Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere, and that gave instant access to the same book to friends and relatives.
Countless online book clubs and readers groups have also sprung up to bring people with similar interests together to share their thoughts on favourite novels, even if they live on different continents.
Thanks to readers talking to each other, a number of self-published books have gone on to enjoy phenomenal success and even the Hollywood treatment, including 50 Shades of Grey and The Martian.
How is this self-publishing revolution affecting ‘traditional’ publishing media?
It’s been a tough time for the traditional publishing industry, although many felt it needed a shake up! Writers, especially unknown writers, often complained that they’d receive a very bad deal when paperbacks were sold, with publishers and retailers taking the bulk of income from sales.
A lot of bookshops have closed as paperback sales fell. However, there are signs recently that this decline has halted and the market in physical books seems now to have stabilised.
Why do authors Self-Publish?
What are the advantages & disadvantages of self-publishing on the literary industry and why would authors consider the option?
In the past, self-publishing would have been sneered at by the publishing business and killed off any hope of a book deal. Not anymore.
Thanks to the Kindle, a lot of writers have enjoyed success by producing books themselves and bypassing the traditional publishing industry. Ever keen to cash in, this has meant a knock on the door from some of the biggest names in publishing, with some very lucrative contracts offered.
Another advantage for publishers is that by signing independent authors with a track record of sales, there is more likelihood of success and they don’t need to spend so much time and money reading submissions.
This has led to publishers cutting editorial staff numbers and making it even more difficult for new writers to land a book deal. Unless you’re Katie Price!
A Change in the market?
Do you see a point where self-publishing will overtake traditional media?
It’s happening every day as more and more new books are self-published. When some of these titles find success, the author may sign a deal with a traditional publisher, but many will want to stay independent and retain full control over their book.
What’s next for the industry, how do you see the next 10-15 years of publishing?
It’s inevitable that ebook sales will continue to rise as people use more and more devices, such as smartphones and iPads, in their everyday lives.
Thanks to the global nature of Kindles, the potential is huge as English becomes understood by more people all over the world, many of whom will have an appetite to read in their newly learnt language.
This creates the perfect literary environment by bringing together the two most important people in publishing; the writer and the reader.